What Nations Remember: (Difficult) Heritage, Memory and Repair

Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam

Course Description

  • Course Name

    What Nations Remember: (Difficult) Heritage, Memory and Repair

  • Host University

    Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam

  • Location

    Amsterdam, The Netherlands

  • Area of Study


  • Language Level

    Taught In English

  • Course Level Recommendations


    ISA offers course level recommendations in an effort to facilitate the determination of course levels by credential evaluators.We advice each institution to have their own credentials evaluator make the final decision regrading course levels.

    Hours & Credits

  • ECTS Credits

  • Recommended U.S. Semester Credits
  • Recommended U.S. Quarter Units
  • Overview

    On completing the course students will:
    • Understand key theories and debates within heritage and memory studies surrounding nation, citizenship and “difficult histories”
    • Understand the role of heritage institutions in shaping how nations remember, within a globalized context
    • Apply theoretical knowledge to analyze contemporary national memory and heritage debates, policies and practices, including those related to museum exhibits
    • Be able to formulate their own position on contemporary national memory and heritage debates, policies and practices, both verbally and in written form.

    How do different nation-states deal with the legacies of their undesirable pasts and how does this affect differently implicated groups or inhabitants within the nation? What forms of remembrances, technologies of memory, or reparative strategies do such nations adopt in addressing these pasts? And, what emotional framing, whether shame, regret or guilt is brought to bear on, or disavowed in, these acts of repair?

    This course explores how different national polities have dealt with “undesirable”, disturbing or “uncomfortable” pasts, especially in relationship to practices of national and trans-national heritage making. Students will be introduced to and encouraged to think critically across a diverse set of examples of difficult pasts within different national polities, from China’s response to the afterlife of Japanese imperialism, and how the Netherlands, France or Belgium have “remembered” or “forgotten” the colonial past, to how contemporary South Africans deal with the legacies of the Apartheid regime. By looking at how nations remember or forget certain pasts, the course allows students to develop a critical lens on the political process involved in the making of national narratives, or national heritage, and its impact on the lives of those who live with the legacies of these difficult pasts. The course will adopt a multi-disciplinary approach – including critical heritage studies, memory studies and material culture studies, to introduce students to the different strategies by governments, community-based organizations, and individuals to dealing with such difficult pasts. In addition to reading a number of key texts within memory and heritage studies on and from selected countries, students will be introduced to creative strategies, especially through the work of artists, of addressing difficult pasts. A number of specially invited presenters will contribute to the variety of case studies introduced to the students.

    Seminar/ working group/individual presentations/field trip(s).

    Mandatory: attendance of more than 80% of the sessions and the completion of all assignments

    Grading elements:
    • active participation in class, including preparation of readings and discussions and participation in final debate [based around Jenkins 2016 publication below] - 20%;
    • written responses to chosen reading(s)/field trip(s) – one 2.000 words academic style paper with references etc. and a second 1000 words blog style response piece ) - 30% each;
    • class presentation and discussion on specific case study. Innovative presentation strategies will be viewed positively – 20%

    The course is reading intensive. Participants should have a background in 20th century history and/or heritage studies.

Course Disclaimer

Courses and course hours of instruction are subject to change.

Some courses may require additional fees.